Pain of innovation

The primary obstacle to innovation of every kind is the pain of philosophy, which begins as angst before blooming into perplexity.


We don’t hate new ideas because they’re new.

We don’t even hate new ideas because they displace beloved old ideas.

We hate new ideas because they require the creation of conceptual vacuum before we can understand them.

A conceptual vacuum is not like empty space. It is empty of articulated order, which means it overflows with everything-at-once. It is chaos.


The depth of an idea means: “how much forgetting does it require in order to be understood?”

More depth = more forgetting = more pain.


Real innovation is the product of deep thought. That is, it involves forgetting the conventional wisdom of some realm of activity, re-conceiving it, and thinking out the consequences. This alone generates new ideas capable of inspiring people.

But most people have no taste for thinking, much less thinking in depth. They see thinking and doing — and especially creative doing — as opposed. To this sensibility, disciplined thought and research — anything that seems to question or negate can only encumber the creative process, which is understood to be purely positive. So the method is brainstorm the maximum number of ideas possible — very deliberately excluding thought.

What comes from this process is usually large heaps of uninspiring cleverness, which gets translated into forgettable products, services and marketing.

Doing something really different requires a hell of a lot more than ingenuity. It requires the courage to take the preliminary step of “thinking different”, and then the faith to relentlessly execute upon the new thinking. We reject what comes before and after, and pay attention only to the easy middle part.

  • Before: Philosophy
  • Middle: Ideation
  • After: Operationalization


The very deepest ideas draw us into the underworld of mind. To grasp them we must cross the river of forgetfulness, and then grope through limbo, without boundary stones, maps, compasses or stars to guide us. If we look back, all is lost. We are trapped in the old life, rooted to the institutional view, pillars of respectability.


When we rethink how we think, we gain freedom of movement, first in mind, then in body.

Leave a Reply